Cravings Demystified: Understanding Your Body’s SignalsLisa Kilgour, Nutritionist
March 7, 2023
Cravings can feel really overwhelming sometimes, can’t they? If you’re trying to follow a new way of eating, sometimes your favourite food can linger in the back of your mind all day long, daring you to eat it.
There are piles of books written about using willpower to quiet your cravings; tips and tricks to try to keep all of your cravings at bay. These ideas can work for a little while, but usually, those cravings come back eventually (and sometimes with a vengeance).
So, I’d like to offer you a different perspective. There’s another way of looking at your cravings that may feel more doable, especially during these stressful times. Instead of using willpower to ignore your cravings, what if you embraced them?
Think about this – your body is your best friend and best ally in your health. It’s doing everything possible to keep you alive every moment of the day. It’s healing your tissues and fighting off any invading cold or flu virus. So maybe, just maybe, when your body asks for chocolate… there’s a reason for it.
By using curiosity instead of willpower to face your cravings, you gain a new way of understanding your body. Let’s look at a few common cravings and some reasons why your body might be asking for that food. Starting with my personal #1 craving, chocolate.
Good news for your chocolate cravings!
Dark chocolate, cocoa, and cacao are surprisingly nutrient dense. They contain a whole slew of minerals like iron, zinc, and copper, along with healthy fat in the cocoa butter. But, the main reason people crave chocolate is due to its abundance of the relaxing mineral, magnesium. 
Your body needs extra magnesium when you’re under stress, during certain weeks of the menstrual cycle (hello PMS chocolate cravings), and when you’re feeling tired. Low magnesium is surprisingly common and other symptoms are trouble sleeping and tight, tense muscles. Enjoy some dark chocolate every day to help calm your magnesium craving.
Why am I craving sugar?
If your cravings are for sweeter foods, like milk chocolate (instead of dark), cookies, or pastries, then your body might be looking for a blood sugar boost or some extra energy. Your body will crave a sweet treat anytime your blood sugar dips too low , and a balanced, fibre- & protein-rich breakfast can pull you off that blood sugar rollercoaster all day.
Eating a low-carb diet can also pique your body’s interest in your favourite sweet treat because it’s looking for an easy source of glucose. Adding more fibre-rich starchy veggies, like sweet potatoes and beets to your diet can give your body a balanced and steady source of glucose.
Why am I craving salt?
Instead of sweet, you might be a salt craver. This is also a very common craving and I have very good news for you.
If you’re a salt craver and you tend toward low blood pressure, your body may actually need more salt . Preferably a good quality sea salt or Himalayan salt.
Another reason you might be craving salt is dehydration. Salt makes you thirsty and helps with the absorption of the water you drink, so your late afternoon salty snack might be a request for a big glass of water instead.
Why am I hungry? All. The. Time.
Have you ever felt ravenous? You might eat a good meal but afterward you still feel hungry? This is a common symptom of a nutrient deficiency. Sometimes it’s a macronutrient request from your body (protein, carbs, or fat) or, it could be a micronutrient (vitamins/minerals) request.
I used to get this overwhelming hunger a lot when my diet included a lot of refined sugar and processed food. I would eat and eat and eat, but nothing would satisfy my craving…until I had something nutrient-dense. Truthfully, it took me a long time to figure that one out!
Today, anytime that ravenous hunger comes to visit, I make myself a glass of Perfect Greens. I also start my day with Perfect Greens as insurance and on those rare occasions that demanding hunger comes back, I find a glass of Perfect Greens squashes that hunger quickly. Sometimes I just pull out my blender and make a delicious nutrient-dense smoothie with my Perfect Greens. Either way, my ravenous hunger is squashed 🙂
How can I figure out my cravings?
Some cravings are fairly straightforward, like chocolate and salt, but some are a bit more difficult to decipher. The first step is to keep a food/feelings journal. Write down what you eat and how you feel. What are you craving and when? What days do you have evening cravings? How’s your stress level?
Map this out and you’ll start to put together some direct connections, like; “if I don’t sleep well, then I crave more sugar throughout the day”. Or, “if I don’t eat enough for breakfast or lunch, then I have lots of evening cravings”.
Whatever your body is asking for, there’s usually a reason behind it. By using your cravings as a guide, you can start to uncover how your unique and beautiful body wants to be fed. I’ve noticed that once you learn the wisdom behind your craving, your craving gets much quieter. Sometimes it goes away entirely.
Start by noticing the pattern of your cravings; what food do you crave and when do you crave it? Then, notice how you feel if you enjoy some of that craving. These are the first steps to unlocking your body’s wisdom. Understand your cravings and find food freedom. It can be that simple… and delicious.